FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CN) – As the United States wrestles over its energy future, one of the nation’s top uranium producers is finding opposition on the streets of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Haul No, an organization against uranium production, has formally opposed uranium hauling through Flagstaff by putting a resolution through the City Council. They also plan to protest in front of City Hall on Oct. 10. The resolution attempts to ban uranium producer Energy Fuels Resources from using city roads to haul uranium.
Energy Fuels plans to transport uranium in open-bed trucks with tarps secured over the top. Haul No claims the possibility of cargo spills and uranium dust escaping through the tarps and tainting the environment and communities are consequences too severe to allow on the road.
The idea of clean energy implies no impact on environments or people. Energy Fuels and Haul No cannot agree on whether uranium production can be called a clean source of energy.
Citing state and federal regulations, Curtis Moore, Energy Fuels’ vice president of marketing, believes Haul No’s opposition is misinformed.
“I will tell you that the people who are opposed to this are badly misinformed about what we’re doing, badly misinformed. What we’re doing is not dangerous. It’s not harmful to people or the environment. It’s very responsible and can be done very, very safely,” Moore told Courthouse News.
Sarana Riggs, Haul No’s main coordinator, believes that with northern Arizona’s dirty history of uranium mining, milling and hauling, people should be cautious.
“This is not clean energy. Clean energy would have no impact, no devastation, no contamination,” Riggs said in an interview.
Uranium currently produces 20 percent of U.S. electricity, according to Energy Fuels.
The uranium is being extracted from Canyon Mine, located south of the Grand Canyon. Energy Fuels estimates over 2.4 million pounds of uranium and 11.9 million pounds of copper lies beneath Canyon Mine. It plans to extract both and haul it to the White Mesa Mill in Utah, where it will be processed into enriched uranium.
The hauling route in question will mainly travel through Coconino County – one of the largest counties in the United States.
Transports are slated to go through Flagstaff, more than five cities, three counties, two states and across the Hopi reservation and the Navajo Nation to White Mesa Mill. Energy Fuels says there are many possible routes it can take, some that might not go through Flagstaff.
“We haven’t decided on our final haul route for ore coming out of the Canyon Mine, but we’re going to be using state and federal highways,” Moore said.
Haul No is a group coordinated by three community-based activists in Arizona and the Southwest. The three coordinators have their own separate goals related to Arizona uranium, but came together to speak out about the issue of uranium hauling.
“When we’re doing anything … it’s a consensus of what we should be doing as a group and if it’s beneficial to the overall mission,” Riggs said. “As a collective voice we thought, well, all groups are working on something, but nobody is really addressing these [hauling] issues right now.”